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ARL Disappointed with Court Ruling on Network Neutrality

Electronic Superhighway by Nam June Paik, image © The Q

On January 14, 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Open Internet Order’s anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, a regulation governing network neutrality. The court’s ruling striking down the Open Internet Order could result in Internet service providers providing prioritized delivery for those willing to pay to promote their content, advancing commercial interests over research library and higher education interests. Although the DC Circuit rejected the Open Internet Order, the court upheld the FCC’s authority to regulate broadband services, thus leaving open the possibility of the FCC reclassifying broadband providers or redrafting its network neutrality rules in accordance with the opinion.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL), a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada, is concerned about the impact that this ruling may have on research libraries and the users they serve. As providers of content and services on the Internet, research libraries and their parent institutions have long relied on and supported open and non-discriminatory access. 

Carol Pitts Diedrichs, president of ARL stated, “The intellectual freedom that libraries, colleges, and universities have long championed would be threatened if network operators act as gatekeepers, bar access to competing or nonprofit voices, or relegate unpopular or non-commercial expression to the Internet’s slow lanes. We look forward to working with the FCC in considering the avenues available to ensure effective network neutrality and open Internet rules going forward.”

An open Internet is increasingly critical to the research library community as educational institutions provide a growing number of distance learning services and online instruction such as MOOCs. The Internet is essential infrastructure to higher education for research, teaching, and learning and has driven innovation, sparked creativity, and promoted collaboration.

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 125 research libraries in the US and Canada. Its mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.